Mozambique: trembling on the edge of a precipice?

MozambiqueIs Mozambique sliding back to war?

The country, which is still recovering from the civil war (30 May 1977 – 4 October 1992) that so devastated the country, appears to be in deep trouble.

The main opposition movement, Renamo, has threatened to block the railway line linking the country’s vast coalfields to the coast.

Now police have arrested the Renamo information chief, Jeronimo Malagueta.

This is a very dangerous step, which threatens to end Mozambique’s prospects for growth.

Two months ago Renamo launched a series of attacks.

The raids in central Sofala province killed at least 11 soldiers and police and three civilians.

They were launched after Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama returned with his civil war comrades to the Gorongosa jungle base from which they operated during the 1980’s.

“It does bring back all those fears of the war,” said Joseph Hanlon, a senior lecturer at Britain’s Open University and an expert on Mozambique.

Remano has been increasingly critical of the control exercised by the ruling MPLA party over government.

The party last year said it could resume the conflict and complained that elections in 2009, won by Frelimo, were unfair.

The escalation of tension, with threats, clashes and arrests, is very dangerous indeed, and will be difficult to defuse.

Update

Mozambique’s Renamo ex-rebels blamed for deadly attacks

Taken in Mozambique's's Gorongosa's mountains in November 2012 - fighters of former rebel movement Renamo receive military training Renamo soldiers are usually stationed in a camp in the Gorongosa mountains

At least two people have been killed in attacks suspected to have been carried out by opposition Renamo party fighters in central Mozambique, officials say.

The shootings happened two days after Renamo information chief Jeronimo Malagueta said the party would “paralyse” roads and a railway link vital to coal exports.

Police detained him in the early hours of Friday, shortly before the attacks.

The former rebel group ended a 16-year-long guerrilla war in 1992.

But fears that its peace accord with the governing Frelimo party could collapse grew late last year, when Renamo leader Alfonso Dhlakama returned to his bush camp in the Gorongosa mountains in central Mozambique.

‘Renamo encircled’

On Monday, six soldiers were killed when gunmen attacked an armoury in the central region of Dondo; a large number of weapons were stolen.

Renamo denied it carried out the raid.

The party has not commented on the latest attacks, but its spokesman Fernando Mazanga confirmed to the BBC that Mr Malagueta had been detained.

Interior Ministry spokesman Pedro Cossa said gunmen ambushed vehicles in at least two attacks in central Sofala province, on the highway linking northern and southern Mozambique.

He said at least two people were killed and five wounded in the attacks.

“I have no doubt that it was Renamo,” Mr Cossa is quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

The attacks have rekindled memories of the civil war when people were scared to travel and the economy was severely disrupted, reports that BBC’s Jose Tembe from the capital, Maputo.

Map

“As we were driving they started shooting from the bush… They shot me,” Monica Malote, a passenger in a truck, told state radio.

Police have detained Mr Malagueta for questioning and he has not yet been charged, our reporter says.

State radio said rapid-response police units had started patrolling the main north-south highway.

On Wednesday, Mr Malagueta said Renamo planned to carry out attacks because Mr Dhlakama was under threat from government forces.

“Renamo will position itself to stop the circulation of vehicles transporting people and goods, because the government uses these vehicles to transport arms and plain clothed soldiers,” he said.

“The government doesn’t give us any other option. Renamo is encircled. We are going to lose our leader,” Mr Malagueta added.

‘Ignored’

He also warned that Renamo would target a rail link to Mozambique’s Beira port.

The link is used mostly by Brazil’s Vale and London-listed Rio Tinto, which are among companies developing Mozambique’s coal deposits and offshore gas fields, according to Reuters.

Mozambique has been been trying to rebuild its economy since the brutal civil war ended in 1992, with a peace deal between Renamo and Frelimo.

A force of about 300 Renamo men have remained armed since the accord, despite efforts to integrate them into the army or police force.

Mr Dhlakama says he needs his own personal bodyguards, and the men usually stay in his bush camp in the Gorongosa mountains.

After the civil war ended, Mr Dhlakama moved out of the camp to live in Maputo and later in the northern Nampula province

But he returned to the mountains last year, saying he needed to be close to his men who had felt ignored.

In April, Renamo said it carried out an attack on a police post was attacked in the central Dondo region.

Source: BBC News

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